Kenny Shiels has cranked the pressure up ahead of tonight’s clash against Cork City, claiming the ‘Rebels’ simply can’t afford to lose and allow leaders Dundalk to move further ahead.
His opposite number John Caulfield says tonight’s match is the ‘biggest of the season’ so far and Shiels agrees the game is of vital importance for the league’s second placed side.
The Derry manager even suggested that, should Cork fail to defeat Derry at the third attempt this season, it could be time for Caulfield’s men to ‘press the panic button’ in terms of challenging for the league title.
Although Cork are considered favourites tonight, having won five on the bounce, Shiels insists his side travel with confidence given their performances in their last two league games against St Patrick’s Athletic and Finn Harps.
“It’s important to them,” said the Derry boss. “Cork need to be up there challenging Dundalk. Given their budget and current status in the League of Ireland, they need to be up in the top two.
“And, if they didn’t win this game and Shamrock Rovers won, they could be overtaken and panic buttons might be pressed.
“They don’t want Dundalk to get any further ahead than they are at the moment. They need to win this game much more than us,” he added.
“They really need to be kicking in and cutting into the lead Dundalk have over them and they’ve won their last five league games.
“I don’t want to sound like it’s not important to us because it’s very important. But we realise we’re in a good place in fourth position and trying to sustain that is a priority.”
Shiels feels his side deserved more from the midweek draw against Finn Harps given their dominance in the second half. But he believes they can take confidence from their display.
“I think people underestimated how well we played on Tuesday night,” he said. “Sometimes you play really well and don’t get the win and that’s what happened. Although I was disappointed in the two goals we conceded, the boys are upbeat about their performance and we go into the Cork game on a high.
“We know we played well and dominated a game of football more than we have any other game this season.
“But we’ll be up for this one. Cork will be out with some retribution in mind. They’ve got good quality in their team, good energy. They’re at home and it’s always difficult to get something from Cork. This will be a mighty, mighty challenge for our players.
“We’re mindful of how difficult the opponent is. However, it’s a game we relish and we go in with some optimism. We have creativity in the team and a style of play that is right up there with any team.”